Two crucial referendums bookended the 1980s in Uruguay. On November 30, 1980, Uruguayans headed to the polls for the first time in over seven years to cast their ballots on a constitutional plebiscite intended to give the armed forces a permanent and more sizeable control of power in the country. Since Juan María Bordaberry dissolved parliament and declared a State of Emergency in 1973, the Uruguayan military had, in the words of a leading human rights organization, established with "unprecedented sophistication
a hushed, progressive repression measured out in doses until it gained absolute control over the entire population." During that time, the military shut down the press and imprisoned one in every fifty people, resulting in the highest rate of political incarceration in the world. Hundreds more disappeared, both in Uruguay and neighboring countries and over ten percent of the Uruguayan population fled the country in fear.